A film review by Craig J. Koban August 27, 2013
2013, R, 113 mins.
2013, R, 113 mins.
Aaron Johnson as Dave Lizewski / Kick-Ass / Chloë Grace Moretz as Mindy McCready / Hit-Girl / Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Chris D'Amico / The Mother F--kerr / Clark Duke as Marty Eisenberg / Battle Guy / Jim Carrey as Colonel Stars and Stripes / Donald Faison as Doctor Gravity / Lindy Booth as Night Bitch / Olga Kurkulina as Mother Russia / Andy Nyman as The Tumor
Written and directed by Jeff Wadlow / Based on the comic series by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.
original KICK-ASS from 2009 was a
satirical juggernaut as a comic book super hero film, one that managed to
both show reverence to and mock the established clichés and conventions of
the genre. Part of its great
appeal – which was found in Mark Millar’s and John Romita Jr.’s
original comic book source material – was that it tapped into every teen
geeks’ fantasy about putting on a costume and dispatching evil
doers. Unfortunately for Dave
Lizewski - the 17-year-old hero-wannabe from the first film - wanting to be
a costume-clad pursuer of justice is far easier than actually being one.
The first KICK-ASS film was hilariously subversive in this regard
as it explored a world where everyone’s favorite comic books existed and
those that read them wanted to emulate their heroes, with varying degrees
comes KICK-ASS 2, which is a surprise of a sequel, seeing as the first
film was just a modest box office success and did little in the way of huge
business to even warrant a sequel. Gone this time is the first film’s director, Matthew Vaughn
(now serving as producer) and in is Jeff Wadlow, who also scripted the
sequel. To be fair, KICK- ASS
2 does what all sequels should do: It goes beyond the origin story of the first
film and takes the established characters in new directions.
On those levels, this new film is successful. It also still makes great usage of its game cast and relishes
at having nihilistic fun at their expense.
Yet, KICK-ASS 2 seems a bit too scattershot for its own good this
time as it wages more of a war within itself as to whether it wants to
be a serious comic book action film or a cheeky lampooning of super hero
motifs. The first film
balanced these two entities rather well, but now I gained the sense that
the sequel sort of falls short in blending the original’s cutting edge
ultra-violence and sly humor. KICK-ASS
2, as a result, never quite finds a way to marry its divergent tones really well.
(Aaron Johnson, perhaps looking a bit too old now to play a plausible high
school kid) returns as the titular hero, who in the last film donned a green
and yellow masked jumpsuit to become a vigilante crime-fighter with
hilariously inconsistent results. Alas, he made up for his lack of super powers – and skills
in general – with raw passion, will, desire, and an ability to take an
unpardonable amount of physical punishment.
KICK-ASS 2 begins roughly a few years after the first film, which
had a climax that, you may recall, had Kick-Ass kill turncoat hero Chris
D’Amico’s (aka - Red Mist, played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse) vile
gangster dad with a rocket launcher.
Now, it seems that Chris wants to seek vengeance against Kick-Ass
by becoming a real-life super villain. With
his inheritance money, Chris launches a revenge plot and adopts a new
outfit and moniker, the latter that should probably not be repeated here.
Dave still remains a geeky high school senior, but has now retired, so to
speak, from crime fighting in an effort to become more normal.
His friend, Mindy McCready (aka Hit Girl, Chloe Grace Moretz) is
now a more fully-grown teen that’s still battling with her father’s
death from the first film. She lives with her new guardian (Morris Chestnut) who
desperately tries to steer Mindy in the right upbringing path, but Mindy
still manages to sneak out of her home and wander the streets as Hit Girl
to remove the scum of the earth off of the streets as her father trained
her to do. The problem for
both Mindy and Dave while they struggle to live high school lives of bland
ordinariness is that the allure of being masked vigilantes becomes too
overpowering. That, and
social life at high school blows, as Mindy discovers in a very funny
subplot as she tries to fit in with a group of pompous and elitist girls
that end up treating Mindy rather poorly…all while not knowing that she
could kill them at any given moment.
Dave becomes so disenchanted and bored that he finds himself adopting his
Kick-Ass mantle again, but this time he and Hit Girl have some company in
the form of other costumed heroes, and the film has great fun in coming up
with them. There’s Dr.
Gravity (Donald Faison), Night Bitch (Lindy Booth) and, yes, Colonel Stars
and Stripes (Jim Carrey), a former mob enforcer now born-again Christian
crime fighter that has a dog named Eisenhower that has a nasty penchant for biting
a villain’s junk on command. For awhile,
everything seems to be going smoothly for this new super hero team, but
then Chris’ egomaniacal and cold hearted baddie shows up with his own
squad of murderous thugs (including Mother Russia, a hulking woman
that’s seemingly impervious to pain) that targets them all for
As with the
previous film, I found myself positively gravitating to the well assembled
cast here: Johnson may no longer look the part of a gangly and nerdy
17-year-old, but he still brings infectious levels of naiveté and
enthusiasm in his performance. Moretz
is no longer an f-bomb uttering little girl assassin from the original
(which all but curtails her role’s shocking edge this go-around), but
she nonetheless still remains an ultra-cool focal point of interest in
KICK-ASS 2. The borderline
unrecognizable Jim Carrey – who very publicly disowned the film before
its release due to its violence – manages to bring new levels of devious and
totally deranged unpredictability to the film as his bat swinging
anti-hero. Granted, since he
participated in no advance publicity for the film, it feels that his role,
as a result, has definitely been shortened in the cutting room, which is a
of a shame, seeing as he helps breath new life into the sequel when it
desperately needs it.
Where KICK-ASS 2
falters, though, is that, as stated, it’s too meandering, unfocused, and
has a made-it-up-as-they-went vibe throughout.
Oftentimes, there are far too many new characters all trying to get
attention in the story when the film really should have focused on the
primary personas from the first film.
There’s also much less in the way of go-for-the-juggler satire
now as this new film becomes a bit too engrossed in action and mayhem.
The blood-curdling carnage of KICK-ASS still remains intact here,
but there does not seem to be as much in the way of sly commentary about
the bloodshed itself in KICK-ASS 2. The
prequel showed – in perverse levels of sadism – the plausible levels
of body ravaging brutality that would be the product of an inexperienced
and average person becoming a hero overnight.
In this film we seem to get more violence without any type of
compelling slant to it.
Still, I mostly had a good time with KICK-ASS 2, and it was momentarily exhilarating to see Kick-Ass and Hit Girl’s army of heroes duke it out versus Chris’ squad of evil doers in the film’s bizarre, yet action-soaked climax (complete with a shark in a large water tank in the villain’s lair, which you know will figure in at some point). Alas, KICK-ASS 2 most certainly lacks the revitalizing freshness of the film that preceded it, not to mention that it’s not nearly as devilishly shrewd with its satirical crosshairs either. This is a sequel that does conjure up fond memories of the first film and also manages to have some fun with placing the heroes out of their comfort zone (watching Mindy seek her own social revenge versus her viscous classmates that scorned her will have viewers both cheering and quickly looking away from the screen in disgust). Yet, KICK-ASS 2 just lacks the confidence of vision, bold originality, and brazen throw-caution-to-the-wind intensity of number one. It’s a serviceable and well-meaning sequel, but not much more.